Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Got The Blues

Winston Churchill used to call it his Black Dog.
When I was a child, people used to refer to it as "nerves".
These days we call it depression and I'm on first name terms with it.
It's pretty well controlled thanks to my GP, some good meds and some regular(ish) exercise.

Now and again I have a dip though, when the black thoughts come swirling back and circle in my head in an unstoppable  loop.
I want to unplug the phone, pull the duvet over my head and curl in a small, tight ball until sleep gives me some temporary quiet.

I am very wary of coming out (there is still a huge stigma about mental illness, no matter what century we live in), partly because it seems to embarrass other people, but mostly because I fear that people will automatically assume that it's a reaction to Bob's autism.

Now, dealing with the usual  madness that makes up a typical autie day would tip the strongest, most optimistic, person into wells of despair. But people on the "outside" often don't see the hugs, kisses and sheer joy that Bob brings into our lives. And while depression can be reactive, in my case (as my GP said) I just don't produce enough serotonin.
So I take a tablet to correct the imbalance. 
Job done.

I had my first bout of depression at the age of 14, in a time when the answer to every ailment was a dose of Andrews Liver Salts. It was assumed that I was just in a Really Bad Mood.
Needless to say it was ignored, but unfortunately depression doesn't Do Ostrich for very long.

Depression came back, unannounced and uninvited, at various intervals throughout my life.  It squatted like an unwelcome family member until it would quietly slip away..... until next time.

As I grew older and stronger, and a little more caring of myself, I got help and haven't looked back.  It just isn't always easy to talk about.

There are many of us out there. 
Even when I am buried underneath my duvet, it is so important to know there are other people I can reach out to, even though, like Contrary Mary I really don't want to.
That's why it's called mental illness.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

All In A Day's Work

My theme for tonight's blog serves two is to help me and (hopefully) you get a feel for how different the world must look from an autie perspective...
...that, and to shamelessly indulge my love of Monty Python.

Now, those of you who know me, will know that I consider autie kids (and adults) heros.  We could call them pedestrian heros, as their brand of courage is banal, ordinary and everyday.  They never stop overcoming their terrors and discomforts in an effort to get through each moment.

They wear clothes that irritate them.
They tolerate sounds that, to them, screech like bjork stuck in a badger trap.
They put food in their mouths that may frighten them (which is entirely prudent when I happen to be the  cook) .

Sometimes our kids protest and spit, pee and streak at times we consider inappropriate.
To them they are just letting off a little steam from the constant pressure we exert on them to conform.
If they didn't pitch a fit now and again they would probably go mad.

In the clip, Bicycle Repair Man is applauded for stripping off his superhero gear and doing something ordinary....sound familiar???
We do this every day with our kids (stop being special and do something boring!!!) ...I really hope we don't chip too much off their personalities in the process.

Again, old friends will know that a worry of mine is the ethics of forcing a person to conform to a way of life they do not choose, and may indeed find intensely uncomfortable.
But Bob will always be a hero, whether he's saving the world or fixing a bike.

I hope you enjoy the clip.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

7 mission (should I choose to accept it) is to share seven pieces of information about myself that I haven't previously blogged on, and that most people wouldn't know about me.  I considered approaching this from a seven deadly sins angle, but figured you would round up a posse and lynch me when you discovered what a lustful, slothful gannet I really am.
I kinda like being alive and in full use of my limbs, so I scrapped that idea.
The only other model I can think of using is the patented J.Carroll Jump In With Both Size Nines and See What Happens approach.  
That's a real writer's tool, I'll have you know....
...(with the emphasis on tool). my Doc Marten's on we go...

(1) When I was very young (about 4 I think) I could, and did, bite my own toe nails.  
This memory used to disgust me, but now I'm pretty impressed.

(2) My earliest memory is when I was 18 months old , when my little sister Mary (there's always a Mary in an Irish family) was a newborn.  I could see the corner of the kitchen table way above me, and heard my mother say (to my dad) "Tom, will you bring the child with you?".

Now I can't remember what I ate for lunch.

(3) My big brother Kevin taught me to read and write before I went to school at the age of 3.  Because of him I could read way beyond my years, and read 'Roots' by Alex Hayley at the age of 9.  Unfortunately, people assumed I was really clever because of this (I wasn't) and had Inflated Expectations of me. Now that I think about it, it's all Kevin's fault.  What an evil bastard.

(4) I still wore a nappy when I started school. 

(5) I was 16 when I started 3rd level education!!!! (I had ditched the nappies by this stage).  It was a science course on DkIt (known to us oldies as the Regional in Dundalk).  
I lasted 2 months.  

(6) When I was 17 I left home and hightailed it to London.  My vulnerability absolutely horrifies me now that I have kids of my own, but it was the best thing I ever did.  I love London, and it was the making of me.

(are we at 7 already???? I thought this was gonna be really hard!!)

(7) I met the Love of my Life at nursing college in Romford (white stillettos rock!!!!)...I had to travel to Essex to catch a 'Blayney fella.  People still occassionally ask me if he is a "male nurse"...considering he fathered three children with me, I feel the proof is in the pudding.

So there ya go, Lords and Ladies.  Seven Sordid Secrets.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Burn the Books!!

A few nights ago I was boiling (some might argue that I was overcooking , and others might even put forward the theory that I was attempting to create an innovative type of tiling grout.....I may not be a great cook, but what I lack in talent I make up for with enthusiatic cremations ) pasta for Toad No.2's school lunch.  Now watching pasta congeal into a gelatinous lump isn't a very economical use of my precious time, so I decided to have a gander through my bookshelf ,  as I promised myself that this year I would actually read  (I know, I'm wild!!) some of the dozens of books I've bought over the last while.

I used to read voraciously, but since Bob's diagnosis I just can't seem to focus on a book  unless the word AUTISM (yes, in red!) is leaping out from the cover.
I thought  I'll pick something to suit my mood...something light-hearted and amusing, whimsical even, but was a bit perplexed to find only weighty, solid tomes of brow-furrowing seriousness;

I pulled a few books out, and here's what I found; 

'The Trouble With Physics' by Lee a geekalicious nerd I loved physics at school, but three pages into this supposed layperson's guide I can confidantly conclude that the Trouble With Physics is that it's Really Really Hard.

'The Greatest Show on Earth' by Richard Dawkins (who is one of my heros!) is a wordy book of 400 pages which can be summarised into one sentence. Evolution happened and there is no God.  Job done.

 'Scarpetta' by Patricia Cornwell, where repressed workaholic Good People (who also happen to be miserable, martyred ex-addicts) use their  big sciency  brains to catch smelly Bad People who chop Stupid People up.  
Actually, that's every Cornwell book.

This isn't counting the volumes of autism books, James's Very Scary nursing books and acres of (the irony of it!) cookery books. 

My bookshelf isn't much fun,is it?
My bookshelf seems to have had a personality bypass. 
Or maybe it's just me.

It struck me that most of my books seem to be asking some sort of there life after death?, what is the nature of autism?, who chops up feckless eejits beause he has mother issues and feeds them to the dogs?

It occured to me that I spend a lot of time and money pursuing answers that ultimately don't really mean a lot.  Even if I one day find them, they will not change my life.
Bob is autistic and I love him the way he is (as I do my elder Toads), and no amount of guide-book devouring will alter that.
When I'm dead I won't really worry about it because I'll be...well...dead.
And Patricia Cornwell needs to get drunk and buy a new pair of shoes. 

So, no more wasting time that only results in fruitless, head-banging frustration!

Next week I plan to visit my nearest bookshop and stock up on some juicy bodice-rippers and lots of Marian Keyes. 
ChickLit is my new philosophy. 


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Guns N' Roses

Made giddy by the absence of snow, the entire Bob clan repaired to Dundalk to revel in our new found freedom (ha roads! look, we can drive on you!! take that!!).

James and I cast several sideways glances as Toads No.1 and 2 basically didn't pause for breath as Toad No.1 waxed lyrical (and at admirable length) about guns (he's 12, no further explanation necessary), while Toad no.2 happily discussed the merits of tabby cats as opposed to black cats...apparantly tabby cats are a bit "wild", an it is of vital importance that black cats are jet black.
The irony wasn't lost on us that we were on out way to buy an iTouch for Bob, who hasn't very much speech at all.

A friend of ours always says of kids; "You spend the first year trying to get them to walk and talk...and the next 18 years telling them to sit down and shut up".

Bob's ability to communicate is developing, but we have some hope that the iTouch will foster a desire to communicate, as he seems to have inherited his Daddy's inspector gadget genes.

It's kinda strange that we're really glad Bob was born now, and not 20, or 50, or 100 years ago.  Now he has a fighting chance to become the person he is meant to be.  He won't be flung in an embarrassed heap to an 'assylum', or mis-diagnosed as schizophrenic, or institutionalised  and sedated.
Now we have enlightened pioneers who can see beyond the horizon, and say "hey, lets try something new and innovative to get the best out of our autie kids".  There are people who are inspired by the ordinary things they see every day. Angels walk among us.

In a few weeks it is possible that the iTouch will lie gathering dust (although I seriously doubt it), but what it had engineered is another layer of hope...our kids are not the forgotten generation and we are lucky enough to live in a time when there are special people who can breathe life into that hope.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Splendid Isolation

Over the last few weeks of our imposed, snowbound "holiday", the phrase "splendid isolation" kept recurring to me.
Being cut off from the distraction of shops, travelling, deadlines, schools and occassionally electricity, we have been given oodles of time to navel-gaze.
It's kinda like going into rehab...especially as our offie is pretty much out of bounds (without the assistance of a snow plough, or maybe a decent pair of skis and some will power).  My mental health is suffering, as a consequence, but my liver is eternally grateful.
The scenery is breath-taking...all clean and white and silent...but what's going on indoors chez Bob is another matter entirely.

Bob's Dad checks his tesosterone levels each workday by taking the ice impacted roads as a personal challenge.  He hasn't missed a day at work yet.  I,on the other hand, quite enjoy being free from altercations with hedges and can happily pursue a life where imminent loss of life or limb isn't a threat.
So Mother and Children have been housebound for the best part of 3 weeks, with at least another week to go, if the weatherfolk are to be believed.

A few things have become apparant to me over the past while.  Because I've been spending so much up-close-and-personal time with my kids, without the usual busy distractions, it's become painfully clear that Bob devours about 75% of my time and energy.  Toads No.1 and 2 just don't get a look in.  I'm trying not to feel guilty about this, as logically I know this is just How Life Is, and that input into Bob now equals (hopefully) some pretty cool results down the road.  The fact that the elder toads (aged 9 and 12) fully understand and accept this, without any obvious resentment, is a credit to them. I guess I didn't really see this properly until I had nothing else to do.

When Bob's Dad is home (like today) everything is much easier and he took them out for a couple of hours to give me a bit of head space.  I also got a very pleasant surprise yesterday when my Guardian Angel Lorraine (Home Support to the rest of the world, but what do they know?) arrived, depsite me telling her not to  (Bad Lorraine!!...but Feckin' Fantastic Lorraine too!!).  I guess she just spread her wings and flew here.  She has such a loving and playful relationship with Bob, and I happily scampered off for a much needed shower while they Did Their Thing.  Now regular readers will know I'm not religious, but sometimes small miracles happen here on earth.

Our Splendid Isolation afforded me a little time to read a real book (which I haven't done in months), and my kids got properly cooked dinners instead of my usual flung-together mush (which I like to refer to as art).  We had chats and games, which probably saved me from from slowly going out of my mind as cabin fever bit deep.  I'll be glad when the thaw comes, but it's nice to forget about the world outside our avenue for a little while.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Messing With Perfection

I've been thinking over the last few days about the amount of effort us autie parents spend trying to build connections between our kids and the "real" world.
The question that's been bothering me is this; are we doing it for our kids, or are we doing it out of selfishness?
We aim, through schools and services (if we're lucky enough to have any) to teach our kids social skills as well as  academics.
But by teaching social skills, are we only trying to lessen our own discomfort..(oh what the hell, let's call it what it is embarrassment) by forcing them to sit quietly in places they feels threatened in, to pee in places that cause them distress or to keep their  intensely uncomfortable clothes on in public places.
Is it because we want our child to "fit in" and therefore have a happier existence, or is it to ultimately make life easier for us?
Bob is quite happy to watch the same episode of Dora over and over (and over), and in't embarrassed when he poos in his pants.  He isn't concerned about being perhaps perceived as rude when he doesn't engage in small talk, and has no qualms about leaving a party when he's had enough.
Sometimes I am ashamed of the arrogance with which we forcibly drag our kids from their happy world...who do we think we are to tell anyone that their way of life is not valid?

It really bothers me.

I haven't worked out an answer for myself yet.

What motivates me mostly to keep working with Bob (even when he really doesn't want to) is that I know he is a very clever little boy and his sensory and communication problems could prevent him from achieving his full potential.  I know in my heart that this is for his benefit...that already he is much happier as he is (and will be) rather than the alternative (without intervention, I picture him silent, self-injuring and deeply unhappy).

What also keeps me on the rocky road is the fact that one day Bob's Dad and I won't be around to interpret for him, or explain that when he says his jumper is "crying" that it's wet and he wants to change it.  Much as I hope Toads no.1 and 2 will be involved in his life, I don't expect them to be responsible for him.  Bottom line, Bob needs to learn as much skills as he can to help him cope with life, hopefully as independently as possible.

I am very uncomfortable with trying to change him, though, no matter how much I justify it.

I guess because I love him unconditionally as he is, it doesn't sit right that I'm also saying an upgraded model would be more acceptable. me and my discomfort are going to potter off  and make some tea (I've single handedly kept Lyons afloat throughout the recession).  Any of your thoughts on this would be most welcome.